The King County Council today began hearings about a cost recovery proposal for King County Animal Care & Control which will spread the costs of animal control to the individual municipalities and add some new positions in the shelter. The proposal is a response to King County’s budget deficit and to years of scandals which have plagued the agency. Unfortunately, the proposal by the County Executive offers little hope that conditions for animals will improve.

The Honorable Dow Constantine
County Executive and Members of the King County Council
516 Third Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104

Re: Animal Services Cost Recovery Proposal

Dear Mr. Constantine and Members of the King County Council,

I am writing regarding the County Executive’s latest proposal for “reform” of King County Animal Care & Control. I have watched the situation in King County closely since 2007, when I was hired by the Council to do a review of KCACC, and to determine the likelihood that the agency could in fact be reformed.

I was specifically tasked by the Council to determine whether the agency had the competency to run a humane animal care and control program. The answer was a resounding “No.” My findings included,

  • Dismal shelter conditions and animal care protocols, resulting in inhumane care;
  • Continual outbreaks of disease that indicated lack of proper cleaning and vaccination protocols;
  • Animals allowed to suffer for lack of medical treatment;
  • Lack of accountability and transparency regarding shelter policies and practices;
  • Records that were incomplete and/or inaccurate; and,
  • Missed opportunities to save the lives of animals or properly respond to calls for service.

I also found a leadership structure at the shelter unable to both supervise and discipline underperforming employees. In fact, some of the biggest underperformers at the shelter were supervisors — with disastrous outcomes for animals. The full 170-page report is available at http://bit.ly/dmGwPd.

Although the then-County Executive disputed some of my findings, they were affirmed by the U.C. Davis veterinary team he hired, which also found a pattern of neglectful treatment of the animals: http://bit.ly/c4VRiO.

Tragically, the same problems that plagued the shelter when I did my review plagued the shelter ten years prior: animals were not being fed, care was poor, and suffering was the norm. These findings also mirrored the 2007 Citizens Advisory Committee report, and over the past two years have been confirmed by independent reports from veterinarians; regular complaints from the public, volunteers, and local animal welfare organizations; a letter from a whistleblower within the department; independent reports in the Seattle Times; last year’s report by the King County Auditor; and a recent lawsuit filed by attorney Adam Karp. Review after review, assessment after assessment, analysis after analysis, complaint after complaint, have been virtually identical, and virtually unchanged over three years. The stories about suffering, abuse, neglect, and killing are both heartless and heartbreaking.

That is why it is not enough to seek cost recovery if the outcome for the animals is the same. The same people running the same operation will not yield a different result, regardless of who is paying for it, how much they are paying, and how many additional positions are hired. These are people who have allowed animals to suffer despite millions of additional dollars previously allocated by the Council, and after years of recommended changes they simply refuse to implement.

The citizens of King County are generous, compassionate animal lovers. They deserve better. And not only are they are not getting it; they will not with the current plan and the current team—especially as the latter has proved to anyone willing to look at the evidence that they are incapable of running a humane shelter and unwilling to protect animals from cruelty.

Learn more at www.kcaccexposed.org